On Monday, the IDF blew up a tunnel that crossed under the border between Gaza and Israel, and reached a point approximately 2 km from Kibbutz Kissufim.
At least 7 terrorists were killed who were in the tunnel when it exploded, or who entered it afterwards to try to rescue survivors, and numerous others were injured (Israel radio reports this evening that Hamas claims as many as 14 dead). Some of them were members of the Iran-supported Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), while others were associated with Hamas. Two of the dead were identified as “senior commanders” of PIJ.
Although PIJ leaders claimed the purpose of the tunnel was to facilitate the capture of IDF soldiers that could then be held for ransom in order to release PIJ terrorists in Israeli jails, the location of the tunnel so close to a civilian kibbutz suggests that it could also have been a target.
IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis explained Monday that the operation had been defensive and that it had taken place in Israeli territory. He also said most of the fatalities were from smoke inhalation, dust and landslides, and not the detonation, itself.
“Only conventional measures were used,” he said. “The IDF used the same measures it uses regularly. The secondary damage underground [apparently from explosives stored in the tunnel – vr] resulted in fatalities.”
“There was no intent to target any specific individual. The operation took place in our territory. Their people were killed in their territory,” he added.
Some right-wing politicians, like Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett, found the tone of the statement less than satisfactory.
“We must not apologize for our success in eliminating terrorists,” Bennett, a member of the security cabinet, tweeted. “I will clarify: These are terrorists who were digging a tunnel of death – in Israeli territory – which was meant to kill Israeli women and children.”
I must admit that at first I agreed with Bennett. After all, the tunnel was a clear violation of Israeli sovereignty, an act of war if there ever was one. And I shudder to imagine the prospect of heavily armed, professional killers emerging from under the ground inside a kibbutz while the residents sleep. The job of the IDF is to defeat our enemies, which – perhaps to the consternation of some post-modern military analysts – requires killing them, even if some of the dead happen to be “senior commanders.” The apologetic tone of the statement suggests that it emanated from a university dean of diversity relations and not an army spokesperson.
But some research uncovered a little-known document that sheds light on the thinking behind the IDF Spokesperson’s statement. Apparently there is more historical precedent for his approach than I thought. I present the document here for your perusal:
Cheshvan 10, 1078 BCE
From: Office of the Israelite Army Spokesperson
Subject: Destruction of Philistine Temple of Dagon
Today the Shimson unit of the Israelite Army destroyed the Temple of Dagon in Gaza by a controlled detonation. The operation was carried out using very old, but effective, technology. The Army wishes to stress that the unfortunate death of 3,000 Philistines was secondary damage caused by the roof falling in. At no time did we intend to kill any particular Philistine, even if he was King of Philistia.
As the great Jewish comedian Jack Benny liked to say, “but seriously, folks.” There is no historical precedent for a victorious army being apologetic for killing the enemy. Jewish tradition teaches that when someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first. Even Christian armies don’t follow Jesus’ injunction to turn the other cheek to the one that smites you. Stop trying to make us better Christians than the Christians.
The tunnel constituted an act of war, and using it as planned would have been a war crime. In this case Israel did not cower behind its Iron domes or high-tech barriers, but acted proactively according to the best military doctrine.
Hamas, Fatah, the EU, the UN, the BBC and others may complain, but what they are actually complaining about is Jews defending themselves, for once. We have nothing to explain, nothing to apologize or feel regret for. It doesn’t matter if they died from blast or smoke inhalation. It doesn’t matter if they were on their side of the fence or ours, or if we blew up part or all of the tunnel, or if there were explosives stored in it. It doesn’t matter what effect it has on “Hamas/Fatah reconciliation.” And especially, it is good thing, not a bad thing, that we killed “senior commanders.”
They came to kill us, but we rose early and killed them first.